That morning we all lined up behind the start: 62-mile riders up front, then the shorter distances in descending order. Everyone around me was chatting, stretching, and so forth. It was so windy we didn’t even hear the young lady singing the National Anthem over the PA system until a reproachful “S-h-h-h!” spread back from the staging area to where we lowly 30-milers waited.
Finally we got underway. As always, the first five or six miles went by with little effort: hundreds of riders pedaling northeast (away from the wind) over State Highway 34, which offers a nice wide shoulder. Eventually, though, we had to turn south. That’s when my troubles started. The headwind slowed me down so much I caught myself looking down to make sure I didn’t have a flat tire. It got ridiculously hot, too.
I battled the headwind and hills for a few miles, often being passed, but unable to draft off anyone. I could not match anyone else’s pace. My left hand grew numb, then my right. My legs, supposedly fortified by three days of hiking around at 6400 feet, forgot all their “altitude training” and whined like a couple of overextended preschoolers. Around the nine-mile mark I was getting desperate for a rest stop, which I hate to admit because I normally just blast right by the first stop. Finally I saw a sign: “Rest Stop 1 Mile.”
I can do this, I thought, despite the light-headedness I had begun to notice. A faint nausea crept in too, so that I was almost counting the yards. I’m not sure where I had gone wrong; I probably did not hydrate enough. Between the wind and the other riders, I was afraid to take my hands off the bars long enough to eat and drink.
Finally I coasted in to the rest stop and started looking around for the SAG Wagon. (I just recently learned that “SAG” is an acronym for “Support And Gear.” I had always thought it was a verb. As in, “The Wagon picks up riders after they sag.”)
“There is no shame in sagging,” I told myself.
“You have nothing to prove.”
“When it isn’t fun any more, it’s time to stop.”
“You’ll live to ride another day.”
I offered these encouraging remarks to myself while knocking back Gatorade, cookies and bananas. The feeling came back into my hands, now un-clenched from their death grip on the handlebars. Dizziness? Nausea? Why, I don’t know what you’re talking about. My outlook ratcheted up with every bite. After an unprecedented 20 minutes at the rest stop, I got back on my bike and kept going.
Only the next mile or so was into the wind, then it got easier. Feeling like myself again, I blasted right by the second rest stop and rolled in to the finish with a fairly decent time (decent for me; it’s all relative.) I felt very glad that I had pushed through and finished.
But then came the next Saturday, and the “Cow Creek Classic” out of Waxahachie. Our kids had been visiting, and the route goes right by our neighborhood, so we just jumped into one of the packs that streamed past. It was somewhat less windy, but I had no chance for a proper warmup. Once again, I struggled for every southbound yard. My left hand grew numb, then my right. By the time we reached the first rest stop, the light-headedness and nausea had come back to haunt me. I ate and drank, but this time I had to put my head down for a few minutes.
“I quit,” I announced to Brent, who had been kind enough to ride with me. We were going for the 36-mile route, with some customizing due to not having started with the others. I didn’t quite need to sag, but I had no intention of riding another mile into that stupid south wind. So we got back on the route but turned off within a block or so, to head toward home.
Despite the ignominious retreat, I still put in over 25 miles. I also learned once again that…
There is no shame in sagging.
I have nothing to prove.
When it isn’t fun any more, it’s time to stop.
I’ll live to ride another day.
Thanks for reading! And a big Welcome to my Company Girl friends!